he recent string of sexual assaults near the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus may have been prevented if the women were armed with stun guns, known by most by the brand name Taser, Livingston County and state officials argued.
Stun guns — unlike handguns — arguably are not lethal and destabilize assailants just long enough for potential victims to run away.
That thought process is behind proposed legislation that would allow Michiganders to carry stun guns after acquiring a concealed-pistol permit. New training would be required for both current and new license holders who want to carry stun guns.
“The stun gun is less lethal, so I don’t see why that would be that big of an issue if it’s properly used,” Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte said.
“They’ve always got to be aware of the liability that comes with a weapon or stun gun,” however, Bezotte added.
Bezotte said civilians often aren’t fully prepared to use pistols, such as in situations in which their homes are invaded. A stun gun, by contrast, both protects homeowners and prevents the use of lethal force on assailants, he added.
The Livingston County Sheriff’s Department acquired stun guns for its deputies about seven years ago.
“It’s electrical shock, but it’s run off batteries. It’s not to the point where it’s going to cause long-lasting issues,” Bezotte explained.
Senate Bills 29-30 and 93 were passed in the Senate last week, and now sit in a House committee.
State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, voted in favor of the bills. Hune questioned why licensed use of stun guns by civilians wasn’t already legal.
“I think it’s an absolutely reasonable approach, and I’m kind of shocked that it hadn’t been addressed before, and I hate to use the term ‘shocked,’ ” Hune said.
“It will give people a choice. If they feel more comfortable having this than a handgun, then this is an option for them,” he added.
Stun guns — currently only legal in Michigan for law enforcement — temporarily disable assailants by shooting barbs from a volt-charged device at them.
Michigan is one of only seven states that have not legalized or already allow civilian use of stun guns, said Peter Holran, vice president of governmental affairs for Taser International.
Holran said more than 350 medical and scientific studies have shown no connection between use of the Taser stun gun and deaths.
Tasers attack the skeletal muscles, not major organs, Holran explained.
“They are risk-free, and they are effective. If there was a problem, we would know about it, and we don’t,” he said.
Wisconsin is currently finalizing legalization of stun guns for civilians.
“We’re quite comfortable for what’s happening in Michigan, and we’re hopeful the other five states will follow Michigan in this endeavor,” Holran said.
Taser’s C2 model is designed for consumer use, and is smaller, easier to hold and has a push-button trigger. It easily fits in pockets and purses, Holran said.
The C2 fires with 50,000 volts of power and strikes assailants with about 1,200 volts of electricity. The civilian model has a maximum range of 15 feet — 10 feet less than Taser’s law enforcement models.
The civilian model runs for 30 seconds after impact, allowing stun-gun holders ample time to run away, Holran said. Civilians should drop their Tasers following use, but the company will replace them for free if provided a police report detailing how the device was used, Holran said.
law enforcement Tasers run for five seconds, enough time for officers to move in and arrest the person.
“It has proven effective,” Holran said.